The Dutch Heart Foundation invests heavily in research into heart failure (MUMC+ news)

Half of all Dekker grants from the Heart Foundation go to Maastricht researchers

The Heart Foundation has awarded research grants to twelve talented researchers, six of whom are affiliated with Maastricht UMC+/Maastricht University. The twelve researchers who won Dekker grants — which together are worth €3.5 million — will use the money in the coming years to do innovative research into cardiovascular disease. The researchers, each of whom work at a university medical centre or university, were the best of 83 applicants to the Heart Foundation this year. A rigorous selection process preceded their selection.

Research into heart failure

Five of the grants will be used for research into heart failure, a condition for which the number of patients is expected to sharply grow in the coming years as the population ages. The Heart Foundation and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) expect the number of people who experience heart failure each year to grow from 130,000 in 2011 to 275,000 in 2040. Thanks to research into earlier detection and better treatment of heart failure, more people will be able to grow old without this condition.

Maastricht UMC+ and Maastricht University received the most grant money of all the participating universities and university medical centres. These funds will be used to begin six major investigations. Four of them will focus on heart failure. Other (individual) grants are related to research into topics such as congenital heart disease and cardiomyopathy, saturated fat in foods, and medicines. An overview of the awarded Dekker grants can be seen in the video.

'Grants for top scientific talent'

Floris Italianer, director of the Heart Foundation: ‘It is imperative that we be able to recognise and treat cardiovascular disease at an earlier stage so fewer people fall ill. With these research grants, we give top scientific talent the chance to do important research and further develop themselves as scientists. Our aim is to halt the increase in the number of patients and offer existing patients better treatment.’

Dekker grants

Since 1974, the Heart Foundation has awarded annual grants to talented scientists working in the field of cardiovascular disease: the Dekker grants. The awarding of these individual grants is the result of a rigorous selection process in which each proposal is assessed by at least three external, international assessors. At a later stage, the researchers must defend their proposals before a selection of scientists. The grants are named after Bart Dekker, the medical director of the Heart Foundation from 1971 to 1987. In the past few years, Dekker always personally awarded the highest research grants. In addition, he made a passionate speech about the importance of scientific research into cardiovascular disease. Bart Dekker died at the end of November 2015.

One of the Maastricht researchers who received a Dekker grant, Joost Lumens, is working on a programme that mimics how a person’s heart pumps. He hopes to use it to improve the treatment of heart failure with a special pacemaker. He briefly explains his research in this video press release from the Heart Foundation.

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